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Case 1:18-cv-00326-CRC Document 9 Filed 05/23/18 Page 1 of 6

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

CITIZENS UNITED, )
)
Plaintiff, )
)
v. ) Civil Action No. 18-0326 CRC
)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, )
)
Defendant. )
)

JOINT STATUS REPORT

Defendant United States Department of State (“State”), through undersigned

counsel, submits this status report as a follow-up to the parties’ joint status report of May

7, 2018 (ECF No. 8).

Parties continued in their efforts to narrow the scope of Plaintiff’s Freedom of

Information Act request which seeks:

“All e-mails sent and received by former Assistant Secretary of State for
European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland [from March 1, 2016 through January 25,
2017]….and all telephone message slips and/or telephone message logs for former
Assistant Secretary…Nuland.”

The parties have reached some agreement on narrowing the scope of the request.

State has informed Plaintiff that its search has uncovered approximately 104,629

potentially responsive documents. Plaintiff has agreed that State may exclude from this

universe e-mails and attachments that hit on five keywords. Because State has already

begun preparing its June 7, 2018 production, it will apply this exclusion to productions

after June 7, 2018. However, this agreement has only reduced the amount of material

that State has to review by approximately 9,000 documents.1

1
Additional documents may be excluded because Plaintiff has also agreed that if
Case 1:18-cv-00326-CRC Document 9 Filed 05/23/18 Page 2 of 6

Defendant’s Position

Moving forward, State is able to propose monthly productions in this case in

which it will process a minimum of 300 pages per month. It understands that Plaintiff

would like State to commit to a higher a processing minimum in this case. Unfortunately,

constraints on its resources will not make this possible.

As this Court is aware, State has faced a heavy FOIA workload for some time.

See Order, Citizens United v. U.S. Dep’t of State, 16-cv-67-CRC (ECF No. 17) (D.D.C.

Aug. 16, 2016) (noting the “high volume of FOIA litigation confronting” State and

adopting State’s proposed processing rate of 300 pages per month); Minute Order,

Judicial Watch v. State, 17-cv-205-CRC (D.D.C. June 30, 2017) (considering State’s

status report and adopting a proposed processing rate of 300 pages per month). State’s

FOIA workload continues to be very heavy. In a recent submission in this District to

Judge Trevor McFadden , State described the review and production burden it is facing in

other FOIA cases in litigation. See Attachment to Notice of Filing by U.S. Department of

State re Status Report, American Center for Law and Justice v. Dep’t of State, 16-cv-

1975-TNM (ECF No. 53-1) (D.D.C. April 18, 2018) (“Stein Declaration”) (copy

attached). The chart in that filing identified 15 cases in which State is subject to

minimum production orders totaling approximately 9,500 pages per month. It also listed

22 cases with production orders that do not specify minimum pages, but that State must

continue to work diligently on. These cases do not represent the total volume of State’s

workload. FOIA litigation cases that do not have regular production schedules also

one of the five keywords hits on an e-mail, its attachment may also be excluded and vice
versa.

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require resources for various tasks such as drafting and reviewing Vaughn indices or

conducting searches for, and uploading of, potentially responsive material. In response to

its recent filing Judge McFadden ordered State to aspire to process 600 pages per month

in that case, but eliminated State’s processing requirement in another case. See Minute

Order, American Center for Law and Justice v. Dep’t of State, 16-cv-1975-TNM (D.D.C.

May 3, 2018) (stating State “shall aspire to process 600 pages per month”); See Minute

Order, American Center for Law and Justice v. Nat’l Security Agency, 17-cv-1991-TNM

(D.D.C. May 3, 2018) (lifting “the requirement that the State Department aspire to

process 400 pages per month” in that case).

State regrets that it is unable to commit to a higher processing minimum, but will

always strive to process more pages in a given month if resources allow. However, a

commitment to process more than this volume would reduce State’s capacity to comply

with production orders issued by courts in existing cases. See Stein Declaration ¶ 26.

Plaintiff’s proposal would require State to process 7,969 documents per month. This

would far exceed all of State’s current court ordered processing minimums combined.

State, therefore, respectfully proposes that it make rolling productions based on a

minimum processing rate of 300 pages per month every 30 days in this case. State also

respectfully requests that the Court set a date for it to provide a Vaughn index once it has

completed production in this matter.

State would welcome the opportunity to provide further briefing on this issue if it

would be useful to the Court.

Plaintiff’s Position

In the more than six months since Plaintiff’s FOIA request was submitted in

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October 2017, Defendant has neither produced documents nor has claimed any FOIA

exemptions.

Plaintiff, Citizens United, is a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to inform

and educate the public on matters of national importance, including through documentary

films and other media productions. Plaintiff believes the documents it seeks are likely to

contain information whose dissemination will help inform the public regarding various

investigations into events involving the 2016 federal elections, and in the coming months

as the nation enters its next federal election cycle. Thus, prompt release of the

information sought may be critical both for Plaintiff to fulfill its mission, and for the

public to be fully informed with respect to issues of national importance.

In its minute order of May 8, 2018, this Court ordered the parties to submit to the

Court a joint proposed schedule for production. The Plaintiff would like to begin to

receive document production on a much more expeditious production schedule than the

Defendant proposes.

Defendant apparently has completed its searches for records. Defendant now

remarkably asks for 45 years1 to 66 years2 to review less than a year’s worth of emails for

one individual. Eliminating the 9,000 documents of excluded keywords that the parties

agreed upon still would require roughly 41-61 years to produce and process responsive

records. The Defendant proposes to review documents at a rate of 300 pages per month

(a little over half a ream of paper).

Furthermore, Defendant has not persuasively demonstrated that it faces pressures

1
At a conservative estimate of 1.5 pages per email and 2 pages per attachment.
2
At 2 pages per email and 5 pages per attachment.

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that justify such a small rate.

Plaintiff has requested 11 months of emails for one individual, and believes that

no more than one year should be sufficient for Defendant to review and produce the

emails in that time, if it applies a reasonable level of resources to review those emails.

Defendant attaches a declaration filed last month in American Center for Law and

Justice v. Dep’t of State, 16-cv-1975-TNM. It should be noted that Judge McFadden in

that case did not find that declaration persuasive, and ordered the Defendant to process

twice the number proposed by Defendant. See id., Minute Order (May 3, 2018).

Thus, in view of the above, Plaintiff through counsel requests that this Court order

Defendant to:

1. immediately begin processing those documents that are responsive to

Plaintiff’s request;

2. produce all documents to Plaintiff within one year, with proportional

monthly productions beginning on June 7, 2018, and continuing until

completed thereafter on June 5, 2019; and

3. provide Plaintiff with a draft Vaughn Index by June 19, 2019, providing a

description of and claim of exemption for those documents which have

been withheld.

Plaintiff believes that Defendant should be directed to commit sufficient resources

to processing Plaintiff’s FOIA requests reasonably, not only because of the breached

statutory deadline, but also because of the half year of lost time in which Defendant does

not appear to have done more than an initial search (and only recently has begun to

process responsive records). Furthermore, as our nation approaches the upcoming 2018

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federal elections, and then as our nation will turn to the presidential primary season for

the 2020 elections, it will be extremely important for the American people to have a more

complete picture of the State Department’s alleged political activities, including any role

in opposition research of a presidential candidate during the 2016 elections.

Respectfully submitted,

JESSIE K. LIU, DC Bar #472845
/s/ United States Attorney
JEREMIAH L. MORGAN, ESQ.
DC Bar #1012943 DANIEL F. VAN HORN, DC Bar #924092
WILLIAM J. OLSON, P.C. Chief, Civil Division
370 Maple Avenue West
Suite 4
Vienna, VA 22180 By: /s/
(703) 356-5070 W. MARK NEBEKER, DC Bar #396739
(540) 450-8777 Assistant United States Attorney
Fax: (703) 356-5085 555 4th Street, NW
jmorgan@lawandfreedom.com Washington, DC 20530
(202) 252-2536
mark.nebeker@usdoj.gov

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